#336 Serving with Authority: Respect It

October 26, 2022

Serving leaders, like all leaders, have and use authority.  Authority is the legitimate power that gives them the right to act in their role as a leader. But many serving leaders may find the subject of authority a bit awkward.  Is authority good or bad? How does it fit with the concept of serving others? In this series we’ll examine how serving leaders view and use authority. First, a glimpse at the life of David reveals that serving leaders respect the authority of those above them. David was anointed to be king, but Saul was still on the throne and was chasing David and his men. Twice, David had an easy opportunity to kill Saul and take the kingdom. On one of these occasions, David cut off the corner of Saul’s robe.  

 5Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way (1 Samuel 24: 5-7, NIV).

David’s restraint shows remarkable respect for the authority of Saul even when Saul was seeking to kill him. David acknowledged that Saul was the king and respected his position even when he didn’t agree with the actions of the king. David’s response shows serving leaders the results of respect for those in authority over them.

Respect for authority builds character.  

This period was a very difficult time in David’s life as he was chased by king Saul. It was a time that his character was tested and shaped in powerful ways. Most significantly, David learned that before he should be in authority, he had to learn to be under authority. This is always a difficult lesson for leaders and much more difficult when the person in authority is not a good leader! But serving leaders respect the authority of those over them and allow God to shape their character as they show respect by their words and actions.  

Respect for authority builds trust

David acted with respect for authority because it was the right thing to do. But his followers were also watching. As they saw David’s respect for king Saul they grew in their trust of David. They observed that he was “conscience-stricken” after cutting Saul’s robe. They heard him describe his enemy as “the anointed of the Lord.” As they watched him closely, they recognized that David was a leader they could trust. Serving leaders build trust with those who follow as they respect the authority of those over them.

Respect for authority builds people.

David’s actions challenged and shaped those who followed him. Although they initially disagreed with his position David’s respect for king Saul helped them grow. David helped them grow them by rebuking them when their values did not align with his. As these men witnessed David’s loyalty to Saul, they also became extremely loyal to David. These men would go on to do extraordinary exploits for David.  They knew that because David had respect for authority, he would not misuse authority when he was in power. Serving leaders serve those who follow by respecting the authority of those above them. As they do so they build the people around them.   

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my attitude towards those in authority over me? Am I able to respect them even when I don’t agree with their decisions? How does my attitude impact the way I lead?   
  • How do I talk about those in authority over me? What impact does this have on my leadership as those who follow listen to my comments?
  • How do I want those under my authority to view my leadership? Do I have this same view of those over me? How does this impact my ability to serve those under me?      

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how serving leaders accept authority.

#335 Barnabas: Serving with Character

October 12, 2022

We have observed several of the actions that made Barnabas an effective serving leader. As we conclude this review of his life, we’ll look below the surface to observe where these actions were rooted. In one of the first mentions of his life we learn that he was a ‘good man.’

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord (Acts 11:22-24, NIV).

Barnabas was a “good man,” the evidence of his character. His character was the foundation from which all the other wonderful characteristics of his life flowed. He shows all serving leaders that serving others begins with who we are.

Character serves by signaling who we are.  

Barnabas was “full of faith and the Spirit.” This was the core of who he was. His good character signaled what he was filled with. Some leaders try to manage what people see and work hard to shape their actions, hoping to cover up the reality of who they are inside. But when the pressure is on, what is inside comes out in a harsh word, an angry look or striving for power. Actions do not determine character, they reveal character. Serving leaders focus on filling themselves with the right content. They are careful about what they read, what they see, and what they think about. They recognize that their character signals to the world who they are.  

Character serves by shaping what we do.   

“…he was glad and encouraged them to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” When Barnabas arrived at the church in Antioch, he looked at what was happening and responded with encouragement. Why? He didn’t need to stop and think about what the best leadership response would be. He simply allowed his character to shape his response. He encouraged because he was an encourager. Great results followed, “A great number of people were brought to the Lord.” Some leaders carefully weigh potential losses or gains based on their actions and decide what to do based on how it will advance or hinder their own goals. But serving leaders cultivate good character and then allow that to shape what they do. They do what is right, not what is convenient. They do what is needed, not what is expedient. Their character helps them focus on long term gains instead of short-term wins. They can safely rely on their character to shape what they do.

Character serves by steering where we go.

Barnabas was sent by the church leaders to serve in Antioch. They recognized the goodness of his character and that opened doors for greater levels of responsibility for him. They trusted him because they knew his character. This trust lead to his next assignment. Some leaders seek advancement by carefully aligning themselves with the right people or calculating where they go based on their desired outcomes. But serving leaders cultivate character that opens doors for them and steers them in the right direction. Their character serves as the navigational tool that leads them where they can best serve.

The life of Barnabas is a case study of a man who served well because of who he was. He challenges all serving leaders to develop their character and allow their leadership to flow out of it.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How does the character of Barnabas challenge me as a leader? What action can I take this week to be more like him?
  • What am I filled with? How is this evidenced in who I am at the core of my life? What do I do to stay filled with that which produces good character in my life?   
  • What ultimately shapes my actions? Do I allow my character to shape what is right to do or do I focus on how others will react or how the decision will advance my own goals?
  • What guides my advancement? Is it my own efforts to plot a course that takes me where I want to go, or is it my character that opens doors to serve?
  • What am I doing to strengthen my character? Are there areas of my character in which I need to ask God and others to help me grow?        

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll start a new series! It’s a great time to invite a friend to join. Forward this to them and invite them to view this series and sign up here.